I dedicate this book to Sri Swami Lalitananda, the Vice-president of the Yoga Research Foundation, who is the illustrious author of Yoga in Life, editor of the International Yoga Guide, as well as the poet-composer of Yoga Mystic Songs for Meditation in 12 volumes.
It was the dispassion and intense aspiration of Sri Swami Lalitananda that resulted in my giving the complete series of lectures on Yoga Vasistha as well as the writing of this present book.
The vast work of promoting my teachings and works in the West has been carried on untiringly, with an unassuming zeal and utter self-effacement, by this noble sanyasin for over thirty years. The spiritual world will ever remain deeply indebted to her for the formation and existence of the mighty organization - the Yoga Research Foundation - which is a foundainsource of light and wisdom for spiritual aspirants all over the word.
Yoga Vasistha can bring a complete transformation in the human personality. Like the beggar in an old fairy tale who turned into a king when a charmed golden ring fell into his hand, anyone who turns the pages of this book with an inquisitive mind and a heart searching for the truth will discover the infinite beauty of his inner Self. Yoga Vasistha nourishes the soul and awakens a yearning for freedom and an exquisite peace unknown before.
This unique book par excellence has been long awaited by advanced Vedantins and yogis of India because it is only available in rare editions of the last century. And it is what the enquiring minds of the West have been desperately needing since they heard the remarks of Schopenhauer: “In the whole world there is no study so beneficial and so elevating as that of the Upanishads. It has been the solace of my life; it will be the solace of my death.”
H.H. Sri Swami Jyotirmayananda, internationally known lecturer and writer of over fifty books on Yoga and Vedanta philosophy, has been interpreting and commenting on Yoga Vasistha for over fifty years: first in India for nine years at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, Sivananda Ashram, Ludhiana, and other parts of India, and also in the Dehradun Women’s college. Since coming to the West, Swamiji lectured in Puerto Rico for six years, and now gives weekly lectures here in Miami. Available on cassettle tapes, CDs and DVDs, these lectures are an undying treasure.
King Shah Jehan had the choice of only one type of food-grain while he was imprisoned for life, and he chose the garbanzo because of its nourishment and adaptability to a variety of tasty dishes. So too, if I could have only one book for some extraordinary reason to read for the rest of my life, I would choose Yoga Vasistha. After a brief encounter with Yoga Vasistha, the reader will feel that all other books of philosophy have become like old crumbs on the table, while Yoga Vasistha stands like the sweet and vitalizing elixir of life.
Unfortunately, however, due to the lack of knowledge of Yoga Vasistha, the intelligentsia of the West have been unable to realize the vast treasure of profound knowledge that lies hidden in this great work. For this reason, the wisdom of Vedanta has not been understood and assimilated by them.
Yoga Vasistha encompasses in its powerful writings the dramatic stories of the inner states of the mind, and like a brilliant advocated, presents its brief with a convincing voice and expert phrasing. Yoga Vasistha has a mystic strategy that convinces the mind to undermine its fancies and imaginations, leading to the realization that the world lies within the mind. Nothing is more inspiring and soul-stirring than when the mind lifts itself from the quagmire of false perceptions of the senses and sees the contents of waking, dream and deep sleep as the refraction of the Light of Consciousness filtering through the layers of egoistic illusions.
The awe-inspiring awakening of the knowledge that “Yo are not this body, not this mind, and not this intellect” is uplifting and produces a vital change in the overall perception of the world. it is for this reason that sages warn immature aspirants against the wrong interpretations of this grand philosophy; they emphasize the fact that the wisdom of Yoga Vasistha must be received under the guidance of an illumined teacher. For those who are endowed with a mighty strength of intellect and intense dispassion, Yoga Vasistha brings for them the clouds of mystic understanding that burst into the flood of unique bliss.
The greatest scriptures of the world have always blended parables, illustrations and stories to bring about a striking impression-like a flash of lightning upon the sleeping mind in order to awaken it sharply to the light of the truth. Yoga Vasistha abounds with these. Yoga Vasistha, in its broad spectrum, encompasses topics such as the mysteries of the soul, death and reincarnation, the subtle operations of the unconscious mind which bring about repeated embodiments, psychic powers, the mystic energy known as Kundalini, and the techniques of spiritual enquiry and meditation. A studious reader, therefore, will meet for the first time a challenge to his intellect to discover the secret wealth of the Self and to explore the mysteries of the mind.
It is to be noted that humor and wit permeate the writings and lectures of Sri Swami Jyotirmayananda, like a green creeper adorning the tree of Liberation. But behind most memorable writing which has been guarded as a secret mystic wealth by the sages of India for a long time. This book by Sri Swami Jyotirmayananda presents you with the key to heavenly bliss and perfection, and every page of this book is filled with his blessings.
May the golden sun of your eternal Self rise from behind the horizon of distractions and mental limitations and encompass you in the greatest beauty and sublime love, which are the very essence of your real Self!
About Swami Jyotirmayananda and His Ashram
Swami Jyotirmayananda was born on February 3, 1931, in a pious family in Dumari Buzurg, District Saran, Bihar, India-a northern province sanctified by the great Lord Buddha. From his early childhood he showed various marks of future saintliness. He was calm and reflective, compassionate to all, and a constant source of inspiration to all who came in contact with him. Side by side with his studies and practical duties, he reflected upon life’s deeper purpose.
An overwhelming feeling to serve humanity through a spiritual life led him to embrace the ancient order of Sanyasa on February 3, 1953, at the age of 22. Living in the Himalayan retreats by the sacred River Ganges, he practiced intense austerities. In tireless service of his Guru, Sri Swami Sivananda Maharaj, Swamiji taught at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy as a professor of religion. In addition to giving lectures on the Upanishads, Raja Yoga and all the important scriptures of India, he was the editor of the Yoga Vedanta Journal. Ever able to assist foreign students in their understanding of Yoga and Vedanta. His intuitive perception of their problems endeared him to all.
Swamiji’s exemplary life, love towards all beings. Great command of spiritual knowledge, and dynamic expositions on Yoga and Vedanta philosophy attracted enormous interest all over India. He frequently lectured by invitation at the All India Vedanta Conferences in Delhi, Amritsar, Ludhiana, and other parts of India.
In 1962, after many requests, Swami Jyotirmayananda came to the West to spread the knowledge of India. As founder of Sanatan Dharma Mandir in Puerto Rico (1962-1969), Swamiji rendered unique service to humanity through his regular classes, weekly radio lectures in English and in Spanish, and numerous TV appearances.
In March 1969, Swamiji moved to Miami, Florida, and established the Ashram that has become the center for the international activities of the Yoga Research Foundation. Branches of this organization now exist throughout the world, and spread the teachings of yoga to aspirants everywhere.
In 1985, Swamiji founded the International Yoga Society ashram near New Delhi, India, and, in 2000, another in Bihar, India. The international Yoga Society serves the community through yoga classes, by publishing the Hindi journal, Yoganjali, and by operating free medical clinics, as well as the Bal Divya Jyoti Public School, and the Lalita Jyoti Anathalaya (orphanage).
Today Swami Jyotirmayananda occupies a place of the highest order among the international men of wisdom. He is well recognized as the foremost proponent of Integral Yoga, a way of life and thought that synthesizes the various aspects of the ancient yoga tradition into a comprehensive plan of personality integration.
Through insightful lectures that bring inspiration to thousands who attend the conferences, camps and philosophical gatherings, Swamiji shares the range and richness of his knowledge of the great scriptures of the world.
His monthly magazine-International Yoga Guide-is enjoyed by spiritual seekers throughout the world. His numerous books, cassette tapes are enriching the lives of countless aspirants who have longed for spiritual guidance that makes the most profound secrets of yoga available to them in a manner that is joyous and practical.
Despite the international scope of his activities, Swamiji still maintains an intimate setting at his main Ashram in Miami that allows fortunate aspirants to have the privilege of actually studying and working under his direct guidance. In the lecture hall of the Foundation, Swami Jyotirmayananda personally conducts an intense weekly schedule of classes in Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, Mahabharata, Raja Yoga, Upanishads, Panchadashi, the Bible, Hatha Yoga and meditation.
With a Work/Study Scholarship, qualified students are able to attend all classes conducted by Swamiji tuition-free. In return, students devote their energy and talents to the Foundation’s noble mission.
The Yoga Research Foundation lies in the southwest section of Miami, five minutes from the University of Miami and 15 minutes from the Miami International Airport. The main Ashram is on a two and a half acre plot surrounded by trees and exotic plants, reminiscent of the forest hermitages of the ancient sages. In this serene yet dynamic environment, the holy presence of Swami Jyotirmayananda fills the atmosphere with the silent, powerful message of Truth, and the soul is nurtured and nourished, allowing for a total education and evolution of one’s inner Self.
In the "Bala-Kanda" section of the Ramayana it is stated that Sri Rama was given spiritual instructions by Sage Vasistha. Yoga Vasistha, a complete and separate work in itself, is that teaching. While the Ramayana, the epic poem more popularly known throughout India and the world, describes the life and adventures of Sri Rama, Yoga Vasistha presents his inner realization in detail for those who wish to intensify their spiritual life and deepen their understanding. A vast work of approximately 32,000 verses, Yoga Vasistha was written by the great poet-sage Valmiki, as was the Ramayana, about 500 B.C. or earlier.
Yoga Vasistha, which is virtually unknown in the West due to the scarcity of its English translations, is also known by the names of Maha-Ramayana, Uttar Ramayana, Arsha Ramayana, Jnana Vasistha, Vasistha Ramayana, and Vas- istha. But whatever you choose to call it, it is the earliest detailed work of Yoga-Vedanta and gives a magnificent exposition of the subtleties and insights of that philosophy with a majestic sweep that has never been equaled in any metaphysical work since.
Every kind of exposition is employed in its presenta- tion-didactic instructions, answers to doubts, parables, and stories within stories. Here, for example, the interlocking system of stories within stories enhances the vision of worlds within worlds, and of the infinitely complex world of the mind,itself arising from the Cosmic Mind. Many key points of this metaphysical instruction are touched upon over and over again with increasingly deeper meanings. Therefore the work appears to move in vast spirals, ultimately cul- minating in the Self-realization of Sri Rama.
In "Vairagya Prakarana" of Volume I it will be re- membered that Sage Vasistha asked Sri Rama to express the reasons for his depressed state of mind. At this, Sri Rama elaborated upon the transiency and essencelessness of all objects of the world. All that he once thought to be of value and a source of happiness has, through the vision of his penetrative intellect, become nothing but a source of emptiness and misery.
In the first chapter, therefore, Sri Rama has taken what are normally the most value aspects of life and has shown how illusory they are. The purpose here is to promote dis- passion (vairagya) in the aspirant. Such vairagya considers all pleasures of the world, from the lowest form of life to the highest-that of Brahma the Creator-as insignificant and illusory. This is the first and fundamental requirement on the path of wisdom that leads to Self-realization.
In the second chapter, "Mumukshu Prakarana," it has been shown that certain qualifications are necessary for an aspirant before he can effectively move on the path towards that state of immortality or Self-realization. Sage Vasistha, therefore, elaborated on the four most important qualifications-those of serenity, contentment, spiritual enquiry and good association.
In addition, "Mumukshu Prakarana" elaborated on how the aspirant should not rely on destiny, but rather on his own self-effort. The Self within is unlimited, and each person has that same potential within-all that is needed to unlock that infinite potential and creativity is repeated self-effort.
In the third chapter, "Utpatti Prakarana," Sage Vas- istha has shown how the world has evolved from and is sustained by the Absolute through the limitations of the mind. And since the world is merely a projection of the mind conditioned by ignorance, when ignorance is overcome by intuitive wisdom, mind rediscovers its unity with the Cosmic Mind and the individual merges into the Absolute. At this point, the entire world-process is remembered to be nothing but a long dream of the mind from which one has awakened.
The fourth chapter, "Sthiti Prakarana," aims at steady- ing the knowledge of the Self. Gi ving insight into the amaz- ing powers of the mind, Sage Vasistha explains that it is the impure mind that causes bondage, while it is the pure mind that gives Liberation. It is Brahman who has assumed the role of jiva (an individual soul) due to the intensification of vasanas (subtle desires). When freed of the vasanas, the jiva returns to its essential nature-Brahman. Just as with the dissolution of clouds the sun is fully revealed in the sky, so too, with the dissolution of vasanas the knowledge of the Self becomes fully established in one's heart.
In the fifth chapter, "Upashama Prakarana,' Sage Vasistha deals with the topic of the quiescence of the mind. With increasing insight into the falsity of the world-process, the subtle desires of an aspirant begin to dissolve. Conse- quently, his consciousness goes on expanding until he is fully established in Self-realization. It is vichar or spiritual enquiry which enlightens his mind. Vichar can be practised by anyone whether he is a king like lanaka or an ascetic like Veethavya. Even demoniac personalities touched by the magic wand of vichar may become transformed into en- lightened sages. In an eloquent style, abounding with stories and parables, Sage Vasistha gives a profound insight into the mystic art of vichar, which, having reached its maturity, blossoms into the intuitional realization of the Self.
In our second volume we covered "Utpatti Prakarana" (sections 66 to 122), the entire "Sthiti Prakarana" and a portion of "Upashama Prakarana" (sections 1 to 13). In the third volume we covered the balance of "Upashama Prakarana" from section 14 to section 93.
The sixth and last chapter of Yoga Vasistha is "Nir- vana Prakarana,' which is further divided into two parts: "Purvardha" (first half) and "Uttarardha" (second half). In the fourth volume, we explored sections 1 to 110 of "Nirvana Prakarana-Purvardha." In the fifth volume, we concluded "Nirvana Prakarana - Purvardha" and ex pl o red sections 1-94 of "Nirvana Prakarana - Uttarardha." In this sixth and final volume, we conclude Sage Vasistha's teach- ings, which carry the aspirant to the sublimest heights of Vedantic wisdom.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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